"We must be the change we wish to see in the world." -Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Pain as a cultural construct?

Yes, we are going there.

I had always thought pain was pain and suffering was suffering. I am now beginning to wonder if our perception of pain varies from culture to culture...

I talked with Jim and Naomi about this concept today. Naomi is a young woman from Canada but has lived in Kenya for the las 8 years.  She said that she feels as though there is a different regard for human life in Africa and that she has seen dead and dying people on the side of the road with other people waking by doing nothing about it.  She explained that it seems downright backwards for people who are so family oriented, welcoming and kind to their neighbors to have such a disregard for other human lives.

Jim told a story about a man who has sat on the same cement block for ten years now in the center of Udaipur, ironically right near one of the world's most luxurious hotels: the Oberoi Udaivillas. He has lived the last ten years of his life on this one cement square while neighbors bring him tea and small amounts of food. Jim described him as possibly demented and very old and frail at this point.  About a week ago Jim was walking though the city and noticed this man had a bad wound on his leg. Jim collected some bandage material and dressed the wound, a very painful procedure for such a deep injury. The man barely flinched. Are people in other parts of the world more tolerant of pain? He continued to say that he sometimes sees men and women walking down the road with serious injuries such as broken bones but not doing a thing about it. He said that having lived in India for several years he noticed that adults don't make a fuss when their children get injured, whereas in our society we are quick to (in his words) "kiss the boo-boos."

 I think I mentioned before that these animals we see are exceptionally tolerant of the things we do to treat their tender wounds.  Are the animals in India also more tolerant of pain? Are we, in the western world, over-sensitized to pain? Is this necessarily a bad thing? Am I going to be desensitized to animal suffering since I am surrounded by so much of it on a daily basis here? I know a certain amount of desensitization is necessary to protect my sanity and to keep myself coming back day after day.

I see now why they don't euthanize more of the animals at the hospital.  My first day here I was shocked that they insisted on keeping some of the struggling animals alive.  What I realize now is that these animals are fighters.  They fought hard to survive on the street and animal aid wants to give them every possible opportunity to live.

I am beginning to understand that in India life, and with it suffering, is real, it is everywhere, it is in your face.

Side notes from today:
- Got stuck walking around, semi lost in a monsoon downpour
- Met a girl from western mass! who is staying at the same hotel but leaving tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment